High Court dismisses Copyright appeal against iiNet

Updated: The High Court rules against copyright holders in a landmark case over online Piracy.

The High Court has today dismissed an appeal by 34 movie and television copyright holders against Internet Service Provider iiNet, in a landmark case over internet piracy.

The Court ruled 5-0 in favour of iiNet.

The Court observed that iiNet had no direct technical power to prevent its customers from using the BitTorrent system to infringe copyright in the appellants’ films.

It also ruled that the information contained in AFACT notices did not provide iiNet with a reasonable basis for sending warning notices to terminate customers accounts.

Therefore it could not be inferred from iiNet’s inactivity that it had authorised any act of infringement.

The landmark decision follows a lengthy case which began in 2008 in which 34 studios, including Village Roadshow, Warner Bros, Universal, and the Seven Network represented by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft action against iiNet.

In 2010, the Federal Court’s Justice Dennis Cowdroy dismissed the case, ruling that “the mere provision of access to the internet is not an authorisation of infringement. In early 2011, AFACT appealed the judgment, but again lost before the full bench of the Federal Court when two of the three judges sided with iiNet. Today it has lost once more before the High Court.

But behind the scenes, the attorney-general’s department has been looking to find a solution to deal with copyright infringement and held a number of secret meetings between ISPs and copyright holders.

iiNet, which has offered a number of measures to address the concerns of copyright holders, will be holding a press conference at 1pm AEST today.

“Increasing the availability of licensed digital content is the best, most practical approach to meet consumer demand and protect copyright,” CEO Michael Malone said.

“We have consistently said we are eager to work with the studios to make their very desirable material legitimately available to a waiting customer base – and that offer remains the same today.”

The High Court dismissed the appeal with costs. iiNet says legal costs of the case to date are approximately $9 million and have already been expensed. A portion of costs will be recovered.

A full summary can be found here.

14 Responses

  1. @unclepete – The problem is despite all the promises and multi channels very few scripted shows are fast track and shown within a few weeks of the US/UK. Most still can be months or longer after their initial release.

    I agree that more needs to be done to provide legal alternatives at a price most can afford. And sites like Apple’s iTunes need to be opened up to world wide use. I don’t know how many times I look for a song and it’s on the US site but not here. But again thats not Apple’s fault it’s the record and movie studios that set the rules.

    As for the catch up sites, iView aside they are a joke. Often not compatible with older computers or requiring a faster Internet many can’t afford besides programs are only available after the network airs them. So if the show hasn’t aired its of no use.

    Just as years ago the record studios finally saw the light as people started getting more reliable Internet speeds to DL their music, now the latest ADSL speeds often allow users to DL their fav show and watch them before they air on the US west coast. Home of most of the studios trying to stop piracy.

  2. As far as TV shows go, I am on the side of iinet on this one. Normally I disagree totally with piracy, and prefer to purchase my entertainment legally. However, with TV Stations stuffing viewers around so much (shows being stopped mid-run, running overtime, moved to other timeslots etc) and with them having such atrocious online catch-up “services”, I do not see how they can expect viewers to do anything but look elsewhere…

    For the record, I do not believe however, that fast-tracking is a legitimate reason for piracy. There is nothing wrong with having a bit of patience and waiting a few weeks for your show, for goodness sake!

  3. It’s quiet simple really. Cut out the borders for digital content. End Blu Ray and DVD region coding. Release all new content at the same time globally. Price content in US dollars with a live exchange to local currency for purchases. Allow Apple iTunes accounts to switch between countries to make a purchase within any store.

  4. Dan’s right. The music industry has always tried to stop new techology with lawyers. Remember the fuss over cassettes? The music industry was so focussed on stomping on Knapster, they missed out on one of hte biggest opportunities in the music industry in decades. And instead of Warner or Sony, it’s Apple who are the world’s biggest music retailer.

    Now the movie industry has done exactly the same thing. Instead of looking for a way to work with people downloading movies and turn the downloading into a business opportunity, they try to kill them with lawyers. And fail. Again.

    Will they never learn?

  5. This is a great result. The Studios and TV company’s just have to move with the times and stop being so disrespectful for the viewing audience. They just have to come up with something similar to iTunes and have TV shows available on a world wide release and at a very competitive price. iTunes seem to have been very successful with singles, reasonalbe price and great quality, I use them all the time. I would also do the same with TV shows, as long as they provided them for around $1 an episode and I didn’t have to wait months for them to be available in Australia. Wake up greedy morons, it’s not that hard to solve the problem!!

  6. Good sense prevails. AFACT (and the companies that they represent) are a joke. Now perhaps the movie studios can return to making all those great films that get me to the local multiplex about once a year. More Hot Tub Time machine please…

  7. Ann – Usually the loser pays.
    This was right decision. It would have opened a can of worms. Would they be charged for kiddie-porn being downloaded or shared?
    What of the FTA stations in Pacific island countries that play all programming from the local Blockbuster and air new movies before they are even played in the cinemas?

  8. Finally some sanity, why didn’t they sue Telstra or Optus?

    Its like holding the phone companies to blame if someone uses the phone for illegal activities or Australia Post if someone sends a letter bomb in the mail.

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